A 3D Model of Bennu compiled of pictures taken by OSIRIS-REx along with images of its Southern Hemisphere.

NASA 2019

OSIRIS-REx is a NASA study of the asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft will land a probe on this rock in space, ideally taking at least a 60 gram sample of the rock, and then return to Earth. While this is a sample-return mission, it is important that data is transmitted to assure the mission is on track. Since its launch in 2016, OSIRIS-REx has traveled 70 million miles and as of late December, is now in orbit around the asteroid, breaking a space exploration record. Now at close distance, images transmitted through SMI switches allow a 3D model to be made. Data showing evidence of water on the asteroid gives significant information about primitive organics as it serves as a remnant from the formation of the solar system. Some of the images recently transmitted challenged the OSIRIS-REx team: Bennu’s rugged terrain has a significant amount of large boulders; it is not the smooth surface that was expected. This alters how the spacecraft will descend to the surface. Additionally, the discovery of particle plumes potentially pose a risk to OSIRIS-REx.